Friday, February 3, 2023

Interconnected and Interdependent

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Jan 2, 2023: Paycor Stadium in Cincinnati was electric.  The Buffalo Bills had traveled from western New York to the chilly shores of the Ohio River for a pivotal late-season showdown with the Cincinnati Bengals.  Both teams were jockeying for playoff seeding and figured, along with the Kansas City Chiefs, to be the prohibitive favorites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.  The matchup was happening in prime time, on the venerable Monday Night Football, and before schools, work and life’s hectic tempo had fully resumed from the holiday breather - it was the perfect night for football.

The game started as expected; the fervor somehow pumped out of the heart of the stadium, through television feeds and into the beings of every lucky football soul watching it.  With Cincinnati leading 7-3 with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter, Bengals QB Joe Burrow connected with WR Tee Higgins over the middle.  As Higgins crossed midfield, he collided with and was tackled by Buffalo S Damar Hamlin. 

It was an innocuous play.  Television coverage panned to the crowd, then to Higgins as he walked back to the huddle.  Play-by-play announcer Joe Buck casually noted that another Bills player was down.  NFL fans are trained to listen for clues.  A quick replay or joint being tended to by trainers can indicate the nature of an injury.  Mention of a cart is bad news; lack of evident movement and immobilization measures are far worse.  Hamlin’s situation quickly moved beyond the imaginable football injuries.  Within minutes an ambulance was the on field and CPR was being performed.  Hamlin was in cardiac arrest. 

In the weeks since, Hamlin has made a remarkable recovery, the latest feel-good evidence being his first public statement released last week via Instagram.  And with his progress has come an opportunity to contemplate what happened that night, how Hamlin’s life was saved and what else it says about the course of human existence.

The most obvious standing ovation goes to the medical personal at Paycor Stadium and the Cincinnati and Buffalo hospitals who tended to Hamlin.  Imagine running to a downed player’s aid expecting to encounter a dislocated shoulder, a balky knee or a high ankle sprain – routine football stuff - and finding a player in cardiac arrest.  To have the skill and poise to perform so exquisitely in those precious moments after Hamlin collapsed, and then to nurse him back to health in the weeks that followed…simply amazing. 

Few, if any, have been in Hamlin’s situation on that fateful Monday night.  But roam this planet long enough and every one of us will face a health crisis – either personally or with a loved one.  The odds of developing cancer alone in one’s lifetime is roughly 40%.  In those sobering moments, you are completely dependent on the talents of others.  Where those medical experts hail from, the color of their skin, their gender identity – all the divisive, and sometimes hateful nonsense that infects humanity - is reduced to rubble.

Widen the aperture.  Look around.  The appliances in your house.  The “phone” in your hand.  The food on your table.  The goods that efficiently move around the globe.  The mail that gets picked up and delivered daily.  The knowledge being conveyed in classrooms.  The stuff – cars, HVAC units, leaky pipes – that gets repaired by tradesmen.  The grocery shelves that are always stocked.  The coffee and gas that is consistently available at convenience stores.  How did these things get created?  How did they get delivered?  How is it all maintained?

The world: what an extraordinary machine.

There has been much rhetoric in recent years about the need for nationalism, for America to look inward, to end support for Ukraine, to build walls and to retreat into tribes, etc. and so forth.  Worse, pre-existing prejudices have been preyed upon and weaponized to breed division and weaken our shared cause.  The reality is we need each other.  All of us.  Doing our things.  We are interconnected and interdependent - for the mundane, the underappreciated, the assumed and for desperate situations when a life hangs in the balance.    

20/20 In 2023?

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

Father Andrew White School, circa early-to-mid 1980s.  I was an average student; no academic records were threatened during my navigation of grade school.  But there was no reason for my parents to worry that they’d be supporting my lost soul well into adulthood (they might disagree and may have supporting evidence). 

Reading was…an effort.  Books were overwhelming.  Short adventure stories were fine, but if not for required book reports, not a word of those would have been read.  What played to my strengths?  Sports Illustrated.  The Washington Post’s sports page.  The Sporting News.  Sport magazine. 

Notice a trend?

Our class visited the school library weekly.  Books were stacked floor-to-ceiling wrapping around the room’s perimeter.  Encyclopedias, classics, biographies, adventures, history – everything imaginable was available to our absorbent minds.  To my young eyes, it was a room of knowledge waiting to be consumed.  The problem was almost none of it interested me - not in an organic, I’m reading this by choice and not obligation kind of way. 

There was one alluring spot.  It occupied only a few shelves of a single section in this literary labyrinth.  Here resided non-fiction sports books – the greatest quarterbacks and running backs, toughest boxers, tennis champions, NFL and MLB history, biographies and historical statistics.  It had it all.  Angels would sing and the books would glow as I and a few similarly wired buddies approached it.  I devoured every selection during my FAW tour, some more than once.

The recent death of soccer icon Pelé brought back memories of these childhood library visits.  It was there that I discovered the Brazilian soccer great after checking out a book featuring the game’s best players.  With three World Cup titles to his credit and a short but impactful stint with the New York Cosmos late in his career, my young mind quickly concluded that Pelé was the greatest to roam the pitch. 

Barbara Walters’s passing last week cued more memories.  The news didn’t interest me much as a young lad, but I knew that if Walters was interviewing a person, it mattered.  Walters was an absolute giant of journalism for decades and the long-running evening show 20/20 that she co-hosted with Hugh Downs was must-see television in the 1980s. 

Pelé, Walters, and Franco Harris and Dave Butz recently – I have reached the bend in life where final farewells to childhood icons, many of whom first appeared in those dusty library books, are too common.

The world acquires information quite differently now.  Books are available on-demand.  Library trips are optional.  Printed sports pages and magazines are virtually obsolete.  And getting news via a weekly primetime show seems hopelessly antiquated.  But are we better informed?  Is our understanding of the past more developed?  Is our vision into the future any closer to 20/20?  

Three years ago, the answer could have been a defendable “maybe”.  Remember New Year’s 2020?  There were just whispers about unique virus detected in China.  Most earthlings had never experienced a pandemic.  Health systems hadn’t been stressed to the breaking point.  America had never been shuddered.  It was all beyond imagination.  Not anymore.  Reality has a way of exposing our blind spots or, as George Will noted, “The future has a way of arriving unannounced.”

So, what awaits in 2023?  Sports will be dynamic, as always.  Locally, the Nats and (if there is a merciful God) the Commanders will have new owners.  Lamar Jackson and the Ravens face a contract standoff.  Will the Orioles continue to improve?  Do the aging and fragile Caps have another Stanley Cup run in them?  Tom Brady is set for another free agency tour.  The transfer portal will wreak havoc on college sports.  The only certainties: there will be magic, incredible feats, and inexplicable endings that produce profound disappointment and unrestrained joy.  The details are far from clear, a truth that holds for all aspects of life.  And that’s okay.  If COVID left us with anything, it is the wisdom to know that the future is something to be encountered and experienced more than predicted with anything approaching 20/20 foresight.

All the best to you and yours in 2023.